The art and architecture of Parma

by Marcelo Pinto November 3rd 2012

Parma stands austere and sophisticated in the territory bounded on the east by the Enza river and to the west by the river Stírane. The city lies among hillsides and rolling green hills that inspired Verdi’s melodies and atmospheres of the nineteenth-century such as La Certosa di Parma by Stendhal. Parma is in fact like a queen with its role of prima donna at the time of Marie Louise of Austria.

To explore the city, it is like to take a trip down memory lane. You will find yourself in the aristocratic and the magic atmosphere of the glories of the Lordship and prosperity of the Farnese Duchy.

The starting point of this journey in time is the Palazzo Ducale (Tel. 0521.282861, hours: Mon Sat 9.30~12; Admission: € 3, reduced € 2).

Palazzo ducale is located north of the city; the beautiful building is built by Vignola in 1564 on the behalf of Ottavio Farnese, but today’s appearance is due to numerous alterations of Bibiena first and then Ennemond Petitot.

Inside, a spectacular staircase leads to several rooms in which we have mythological representations. In the large park, the trees are alternating marble statues creating a perfect “French Style” backdrop, distinguished by the temple of Arcadia and the Fountain of Trianon, which represent the rivers Taro and Parma. The main entrance is dominated by Silenus, a marble made complex created by the Parisian Jean Baptiste Boudard copy of the original sculpture. Along the hallway there is a line up of numerous mythological statues.

A lovely example of architecture and geometry of late fifteenth century. Il Palazzo Eucherio Sanvitale (info: Tel 0521.230267; opening hours: winter 10~13 and 14~16, entrance free).

Often used for exhibitions and cultural initiatives, the building has a quadrilateral plant of which the four towers are joined by two arcades and frescoed interiors. Some of the art work is attributed to the Parmigianino. In the former Serra degli Aranci, has now been turned into a café and a bookshop.

In the vicinity of the Ducal Park on Via Borgo Tanzi 13, we find the the birthplace and museum of Arturo Toscanini (Tel. 0521.285499). Here you will find the collected memories and the main collections of the great conductor.

While leaving the Parco Ducale in a straight line and crossing Ponte Verdi you will reach the Palazzo della Pilotta (tel. 0521.233309, time: 8.30~14 Closed Monday and Sunday). It is one of the most emblematic buildings of the city. It has been  conceived as a place of service and linked to the Duke Palace. It has been concevied in 1583 by Ottavio Farnese as a  connecting link to the  Palazzo Ducale over the bank of the river. In reality it is a complex of several buildings, which has  remained unfinished. The  name derives from the Basque game of ball (Pelota) which was taking place in one of the courtyards.

In the interior of the complex you will find  the National Gallery,  National Archaeological Museum,
ta in 1752 by Don Philip of Bourbon, the, the Palatine Library,  the Teatro Farnese and museo Bodoni, the first museum of Printed art in Italy. The complex has  been renovated in the eighties, and you will find work of Italian masters such as  Fra Angelico, Correggio, Parmigianino, Guercino, Tintoretto, Canaletto and Tiepolo.

The National Archaeological Museum, established in the eighteenth century to accommodate Roman artefacts found in Parma. It was enriched later by the collections
Farnese and Gonzaga families. However  it was Maria Luigia to increase collections with rare coins and ceramics from different backgrounds.

The Farnese Theatre (info tel. 0521.233309) Located on the first floor
the palace of Pilotta and built in 1618 by of Ranuccio Farnese it had  scenic innovation for its time, such as the possibility of flooding the Cavea during performances. The interior reveals a large theater hall completely made of wood painted with imitation of marble. It has been refurbished and partly rebuilt after the bombings of World War II, according to the project of the Ferrarese architect  Aleotti. l’Argenta.